“Love will still be there…” – A Guest Post Love Story

While February is generally considered to be the month of love, we wanted to keep those warm fuzzy romantic vibes flowing into March with a very sweet Susan G. Komen 3-Day® love story. Our guest blogger is Rachel T., a breast cancer survivor who is returning to walk in the Philadelphia 3-Day this year.

With my bleach-blonde locks hidden beneath a dense spraying of hot-pink hair spray, my eyelashes quadrupled in length by a pair of shimmering-glue-on “falsies,” my neck adorned with over a dozen strands of pink (some of which had the sole purpose of carrying any and every 3-Day®-themed button I could get my first-time-walker hands on) and my clothing saturated in quite possibly every shade of pink ever created, I clearly had not dressed in anticipation of having my first encounter with the man of my dreams. At twenty-six years old, I had cracked the ever-so-mysterious code of what most guys my age were interested in: beers, bros and babes (especially babes with boobs, two things I had recently said “ta-ta” to) and had concluded while getting dressed that there weren’t enough of any of those things offered at the 3-Day to make any guy my age choose to spend their weekend walking sixty miles rather than his usual weekend bar plans.susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer 60 miles walk blog rachel toomey

And yet there he was, walking right beside me within the first few miles of the 2012 Philadelphia 3-Day: my knight in shining fire gear. My teammates took notice of him first, quickly striking up a conversation with him about his clothing of choice (he was fully outfitted in firefighter gear, including a 40-pound air-pack), and subsequently introducing him to me, the “Rach” in Team Race for Rach’s Rack, the survivor they had all gathered to walk with who had been diagnosed with breast cancer just one week after her twenty-fourth birthday. He quickly became an honorary member of our team and he marched the entire 60 miles without complaint, responding to everyone who had asked him about his struggles that they were nothing compared to the many faced by the survivors currently walking beside him. He won what seemed to be every walker’s heart within those three days, including mine. Soon after, I would learn that that weekend, where he went the extra mile (or sixty, really), were only a glimpse of what my future would hold, as he soon became my main source of support, my best friend and the man I will always love.

Many of our friends refer to our love as a fairy tale, and our story is adored by those who enjoy romantic endings. But the romance of it is not the only reason I find myself wanting to share our story. When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, my biggest fear was that I would never find a man who would be willing to take on the baggage I came with. I was convinced that all men were too visual, too obsessed with physical features, to be able to get past my boob-less chest. I assumed that once I opened up that they would see how physically and emotionally torn apart I was, and wouldn’t want to deal with all of it. So I decided to give up, knowing I couldn’t face the pain of heartache on top of having so much other pain to fight through. I closed myself off, shut my heart down, and became someone I was not. I made sure that no matter what I did, it didn’t involve romance, because that way I couldn’t get hurt.susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer 60 miles walk blog rachel toomey

I share the story of my knight in shining fire gear because I know so many other young survivors suffer from this same fear. I can’t help but think that if I had heard a love story like mine, I would have been able to keep hope. I am a romantic at heart; I want to love and I want to be loved, and I have been that way for as long as I can remember. Having this fear forced me to become someone I wasn’t, allowing cancer to take control of that part of my life. Today, I tell everyone I know that it is you who determines what cancer can and cannot do. It is how you decide to react to your diagnosis that matters. You are still in full control of what you see in your mirror and who you are as person.susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer 60 miles walk blog rachel toomey

It is my goal to share my story in order to provide the hope I wish I would have kept while fighting my battle. I share this blog post not just to share a happy ending, but to inspire that single woman—the one who is a true romantic, the one who holds this same fear—that they can be themselves, that cancer doesn’t have to change the things that make them who they are, and that this fear is fueled by the mirage of what we think cancer can do, rather than what it actually does. Cancer can’t change who you are or those qualities that you carry which someone who truly loves you will adore despite your cancer. I want that young survivor to keep hope, to keep dreaming, to not let fear take over the strength and beauty she has within her. Love will still be there, walking towards you one day, maybe not in full fire gear, but always wearing his heart on his sleeve, ready for you to start the rest of your lives together.


Happy New Year from Dr. Sheri: New Beginnings

“No one can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” (Unknown)

In other words, we don’t start over; we begin again right where we are, with the opportunity to make things better in our lives.

As we begin this new year, are you excited about the possibilities of new beginnings? The beginning of a new year is much like fresh snow: everything is covered under a blanket of white. What kind of tracks will you make this year?

I remember as a kid how much fun it was making angels in the snow. I remember the joy and thrill of making forts and tunnels in the snow. How many of us apply the same amount of gusto to our lives today? As kids we just enjoyed the day. We didn’t worry that our masterpieces would melt and disappear. The conditions didn’t have to be perfect. We didn’t worry about how much time we had. Whatever we built or what fun we had was perfect exactly the way it was.

Dr. Sheri high-fives 3-Day participants after getting soaked in the ice bucket challenge in Philadelphia this summer.

High-fiving 3-Day participants after getting soaked in the ice bucket challenge in Philadelphia this summer.

Wouldn’t it be magical to bring some of that wonder back into our lives today as adults? Every time I get wound up with stuff I have to do, my husband gently cups my face and simply says, “It’s time to put your mind on third grade.” As a child, you knew the value of being in the moment. Today many of us are so geared up we view ourselves as production robots doing more and more all the time. Society tells us that doing more and having more equals success. These are all important but our quality of life is key to peaceful living.  If I don’t complete my list of “things to do” my value as a human being won’t diminish. We are all infinitely valuable, but life will march on whether or not we get that PowerPoint presentation done.

The new year is a good time to reflect, and is certainly an excellent time to plan and decide what you are going to do and accomplish this year. I also encourage you to think and ponder about who you want to be this year. Many times we get so caught up in doing that we forget who we are being and who we are becoming.

What will 2015 be about for you? Will life be a grand adventure or will it be more of the same? Chances are if you do the same things as last year you will get the same result.

Is there an area of your life that could use a new beginning? Could your health use a new beginning, or your relationship with your spouse? Could your career or business use a jolt of new energy? Set your intention and steer yourself in that direction.

A Message of Thanksgiving from Dr. Sheri

I’m thankful for life every day of the year, but I have to admit that this is my most favorite time of the year. As a physician and six-year breast cancer survivor, I wanted to take this opportunity to share something for which I am truly thankful: advances in screening and treatment have improved survival for U.S. women with breast cancer. In 1980, the relative five-year survival rate for breast cancer when caught early was only 74%. Today, it is 99%! As a survivor, I accept the responsibility to educate as many people as I can about breast health and share with them how they too can join in the fight to end breast cancer.susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk blog dr sheri prentiss thanksgiving

Thanksgiving should be a holiday in which we, as individuals, focus on our past, our present circumstances, and our future endeavors, and give thanks. It should be a day to slow down for a few hours, join hands with our family and friends, and truly reflect on the blessings in our lives. There is so much in this beautiful world to be thankful for, and the least we can do is take a moment to realize that on a day that is dedicated to giving thanks. You can still go shopping, watch your football team, go for a second serving of turkey and potatoes and tell stories about the “first” Thanksgiving. These are all very enjoyable things. But just remember that it shouldn’t be about what other people make it out to be. Thanksgiving is what you make it about, and if you think of the holiday in its namesake only, the proper notion should be clearly evident.

Enjoy this time with family and friends and I can’t wait to see you all again next year!